With winter closing in it’s time to start thinking about robust food, especially as I’m a bit of a trencherman at heart. Two of my all time favourites are cassoulet and fabada asturiana. But they both require considerable prep and cooking time. While browsing baked bean recipes recently I started to wonder how easy it might be to do a simple alternative.
Starting with meat, beans and some staples what could you do in 60 minutes? This was a very ad-hoc attempt, which appealed to the part of me that likes cooking by eye, taste and instinct rather than strictly following a recipe.
So regard this as a “structure” rather than something that should be slavishly followed. Adapt as you see fit.
Dice a couple of red onions and carrots. Chop two cloves of garlic. Put in a decent sized saucepan over a low heat with enough olive oil until the onions start to soften.
Add passata (a 500g carton of supermarket own brand), two small red chillis roughly chopped and partly de-seeded (I didn’t put all of the seeds in, but I didn’t pick them all out either), a decent teaspoon of pimenton dulce (or maybe a bit less of paprika if you don’t have pimenton dulce as a staple), a heaped tablespoon of muscovado sugar (or any other brown sugar you have to hand), and drained tinned beans (I used a 400g can of rosecoco and a 175g can of cannellini).
Stir, cover, and raise the heat so it’s bubbling nicely.
Meanwhile, grill the meat. In my case three Toulouse sausages and a morcilla. The beauty of this “recipe” is that you can use whatever you fancy. I happened to have Toulouse sausage and morcilla to hand. Cumberland or Lincolnshire or anything reasonably tasty will work just as well.
Twenty minutes or so later. Slice the sausages into pieces and add to the main pot. Cook for another 10 minutes.
Ladle into bowls. Depending on the size of the bowls, and how hungry you are, serves two to four.
The verdict? For something made up as I went along I was remarkably pleased with it. Thinking about it a bit more:
- I’m not sure the carrots served any useful purpose.
- There might have been a shade too much chilli. But not if you were using the basic idea as a base for a chilli.
- I’d probably use one type of beans next time rather than mix two varieties. And the proportion of beans to meat wasn’t quite right for me. The rosecoco beans alone would have sufficed. Or if using 600g of beans then another sausage (or two) wouldn’t have gone astray. And I’d have preferred the beans a little softer, so a brisk 10 minute boil while the onion was softening might be needed next time.
- I wanted the beans to have a slightly sweet note so the brown sugar is essential.
- If you don’t have pimenton dulce or paprika then some bacon might add the required smokiness.
But this is all tinkering to suit individual taste. Once you’ve got the base sauce how you like it there are endless possibilities. Meatballs rather than sausages. Mince and red kidney beans for a chilli. Which reminds me that I have a chilli recipe somewhere that includes chocolate, which could be an interesting substitute for the brown sugar.
Once I’ve got the balance how I liked, I’d be tempted to make a larger batch of the base and freeze it into portions. It was interesting (but not hugely surprising) that when I had the leftovers for lunch the next day it seemed more “rounded” as all the tastes had merged a little more, which I’ve noticed with stews in the past.